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New 2012 Rhode Island Child Support Guidelines

Rhode Island's Child Support Guidelines have been revised effective as of June 4, 2012. Federal regulations require that each state review its guidelines every 4 years. In the fall of 2011, the RI Family Court convened the Child Support Guidelines Committee, of which Steve Hirsch was a member. The Committee, in February 2012, submitted its final report with the proposed Guidelines.

The new Guidelines apply to all child support orders established or modified by the Family Court on or after June 4, 2012. Support orders made or revised within the past few years can be reviewed using the new Guidelines.

Depending on the income levels of the parties, some guideline support amounts increased while some decreased. These new support payment amounts take into account numerous changes since the 2007 Guidelines, including changes in (1) the federal tax rates, (2) the federal poverty guidelines, (3) inflation, (4) price levels and (5) housing costs in Rhode Island. As an example, the federal poverty guideline increased the amount that one person needs to support himself (the self-support reserve) from $851 to $907.50 per month; thus support for a child at the lower income levels may decrease. The minimum $50 per month child support payment set forth in the schedule remains to establish a non-custodial parents duty to support his or her child.

Further, the economic analysis used to determine the needs for an average family changed from an evaluation of "total expenditures" to one considering "total expenditures-outlays". The key difference is that "outlays" includes installment plans, mortgage principal payments and payments on home equity loans while "expenditures" did not.

A new provision is included in the Administrative Order 2012-3. Guideline worksheets take into account day care expenses for a minor child. The cost is calculated and added into the total amount the non-custodial parent pays as support. When a custodial parent might end or reduce day care costs, often the non-custodial payor was not informed and continued to pay the same child support (in effect continuing to pay for day care even though day care expenses were not being incurred).

The Guidelines continue to include day care expenses; however Rhode Island Family Court Administrative Order 2012-3 contains a provision that if the person receiving support for a child reduces or terminates day care expenses, he/she has an affirmative obligation to provide "reasonable immediate notice" to the payor. Then the payor can decide to seek a reduction in support. If the notice is not provided and later the excess payment of support is brought before the Court, the Judge may exercise its discretion to impose an appropriate remedy, including the repayment of the excess support previously paid.

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